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Golf notebook: Singh escapes PED controversy without sanction

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--We might never know exactly what went down behind the scenes in the Deer Antler Spray Incident, in which Vijay Singh admitted using the product, which included the banned substance IGF-1, a growth hormone.

Singh escaped punishment because the PGA Tour said the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the substance no longer is banned, although it was at the time.

The Big Fijian hasn't said a word publicly since a Sports Illustrated article in January disclosed that he was taking the stuff, and the PGA Tour always is secretive about such matters.

Singh did release a statement: "While I have used deer antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Policy. In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. I am absolutely shocked that deer antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position. I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter. I will not be commenting further at this time."

After being cleared, Singh withdrew last week from the Wells Fargo Championship, citing a back injury, and he did the same thing when he pulled out of the Waste Management Phoenix Open after the Sports Illustrated article came out.

About all that is known is that Singh was not sanctioned by the tour in any way.

"We're going to say that it's not on the list for purposes of consumption," said commissioner Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour, a former lawyer. "But just know that we're not liable here if for some reason or another you managed to trigger a positive test even though there is no test out there.

"So it is kind of silly, but it is what it is."

This is not the first time deer antler spray has been an issue in golf, the first time coming when Mark Calcavecchia of the Champions Tour, which is overseen by the PGA Tour, was told in 2011 to stop using and promoting the substance.

Calcavecchia was not punished, only warned, and all players under the PGA Tour umbrella were told that deer antler spray was on the listed of banned substances.

Even though Singh apparently missed the memo, it's possible his lawyers threatened legal action if he were suspended, because a precedent was set when no action was taken against Calcavecchia for taking the same substance.

Again, we might never know, because nobody involved is saying much.

--Move over Guan Tianlang, here comes Ye Wocheng.

Ye, a 12-year-old from China, became the youngest player to compete in a European Tour event last week when he played in the Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin, China.

At 12 years and 242 days, Ye was about 10 months younger than Guan was when Guan played in the same event last year.

Ye said he made it a goal of his to break the record when he watched Guan play in the tournament a year ago. Guan shot 77-79--156 and failed to make the cut in 2012.

Even though his appearance was historic, Ye had a predictable outcome, shooting 79-79--158 and missing the cut by 14 strokes.

"I was a bit less nervous (in round two), which is why I played well at the start," Ye said. "But then on the back nine I struggled a little bit, which was a bit disappointing. Overall I'm still pretty happy with how I played.

"Golf is a hard game to play at this level of competition and on these courses, but I feel I will soon be ready for it. I'm looking forward to the next time I can play out here."

Guan went on to win the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship last year to earn a spot in the Masters, where last month he became the youngest player to make the cut at 14 years, 169 days. He also made the cut in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Jason Hak of Hong Kong, who is a freshman at Georgia Tech, became the youngest player to make the cut in a regular European Tour event at 14 years, 304 days in the Hong Kong Open in November 2008.

Ye qualified for the Volvo event through an open qualifier in March, when he shot 2-under-par 142 to earn one of the three available spots.

"I've been dreaming about this since I was a boy," Ye said.

The youngest golfer to play a PGA Tour event was Don Dunkelberger, who was 11 at the 1937 Chicago Open.

--Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, who captured the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George's, returned to the European Tour last week in the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters after missing five weeks because of a hamstring injury.

Clarke, who was forced to miss the Masters last month because of the injury, opened with a 2-under-par 70, but he showed his rust by shooting 75-72-74 the rest of the way to tie for 56th.

The 44-year-old was injured while playing tennis on a family vacation in the Bahamas.

"It has been a frustrating period," said Clarke, who also missed the Valero Texas Open because of the injury. "I'm not good at sitting and not doing anything. I've had intensive treatment on my hamstring, and it is fine now.

"I was playing tennis with my kids, and I thought I was 24 and not 44. Unfortunately I had to pull out from Augusta and (the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea two weeks ago). I couldn't do anything. I could hardly walk, hit golf balls or putt.

"I had to sit at home and watch the Masters. I only watched the last round on television because if I watched every day, then I would have been frustrated."

Clarke had not played in the Indonesian Open before, so he sought advice from his friend Lee Westwood, a two-time winner of the Indonesian Masters.

--The legendary course at Muirfield in Edinburgh, Scotland, has been lengthened by 158 yards and more rough will be grown for the Open Championship in July, it was announced by Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

Dawson said that new tees have been added on seven holes, taking the distance of the par-71 course from 7,034 yards when Ernie Els won the Open in 2002 to 7,192 yards.

Els will be making something of a double title defense, since he also won the Open last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

"The R&A and the (host) club strategize about the course's strengths and weaknesses, based on history and viewing previous championships," Dawson said. "We used (golf course architect) Martin Hawtree to come up with plans, discussed them with the R&A and the club, and then presented to the members at a meeting in Edinburgh I attended with Martin and club officials.

"Members sanctioned the changes, and we've gone along on that method at all the other courses where we've made alterations. The changes we have made here have sharpened up the strategy of the golf course. This course has produced some fantastic quality of champions in the past, and we envisage that continuing."

In recent years, the R&A has made alterations to all nine courses in the Open Championship rotation, trying to keep them up to date with all the changes in the modern game.

The biggest change at Muirfield is on the par-5 ninth hole, where the championship tee has been moved back almost 50 yards, making it play to 554 yards.

Also, a new bunker was added on the right side of the fairway, and other bunkers were moved closer to the green.

To make the changes on that hole possible, Muirfield swapped some land with its neighbor, The Renaissance Club.

"The players love it," Dawson said of Muirfield. "It's immensely popular, and it's always in fantastic condition. I always say we could hold an Open here any year at three weeks' notice.

"We will be setting the course up to challenge the golfers. The rough has been cut down over the winter, but it will regenerate depending on the weather we get. You will see the rough up, and you're unlikely to win an Open at Muirfield from the rough."

Other new tees have been added at the second, fourth, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th holes. There also has been some reworking of bunkers, and the 10th fairway has been moved to accommodate a bigger practice range.

Muirfield is hosting the Open for the 16th time since 1892, and the East Lothian area is gearing up for the event, which is expected to bring an economic impact of 70 million pounds (approximately $109 million) to the region.

--PGA Tour Canada announced that Freedom 55 Financial has been confirmed as the presenting sponsor of the Tour Championship of Canada, the tour's marquee event, which will be conducted by Golf Canada.

The tournament, which will be played Sept. 12-15 at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club in London, Ontario, will culminate the season-long Order of Merit race, with the top finishers earning Web.com Tour cards.

"We're delighted to solidify the Tour Championship of Canada presented by Freedom 55 Financial as the season finale for 2013," PGA Tour Canada president Jeff Monday said.

"With a quality organization like Freedom 55 Financial, an experienced host in Golf Canada and a tremendous golf course at Sunningdale, we have all the right pieces in place for an outstanding finish to our inaugural season."

Headquartered in London, Ontario, Freedom 55 Financial, a division of London Life Insurance Company, entered into a multi-year agreement that ensures the Tour Championship of Canada will remain in the London area for years to come.

The event will feature a unique partnership between PGA Tour Canada and Golf Canada.

"Golf Canada is very proud to be evolving our longstanding partnership with the PGA Tour and becoming the host organization for the Tour Championship of Canada presented by Freedom 55 Financial," Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons said.

"Some of Canada's best and brightest PGA Tour prospects will be competing at this event, and we are honored to be a part of the excitement surrounding the PGA Tour's continued support of the game in Canada. We are also pleased to bring professional golf to Sunningdale and the tremendous golf community in the London area."

Golf Canada has more than a century of expertise running national golf championships that include the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour, the CN Canadian Women's Open on the LPGA Tour and Canada's national amateur championships.

--Padraig Harrington is known for tinkering with his game more than perhaps any player on the major tours.

In fact, there are those who believe that Harrington has tinkered himself into the massive slump he has been mired in since 2008. He won the 2007 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, repeated the following year at Carnoustie and claimed the PGA Championship a month later at Oakland Hills.

Last week, he took his penchant for change to a new level when he showed up at Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship with a belly putter, even though he agrees with the R&A and the USGA that anchored putters should be banned.

"I took it out last week," said Harrington, who came into the tournament with three missed cuts in seven outings on the PGA Tour this season. "Mechanically, everything I do with my putting stroke is better with the belly putter than without it. ...

"I had picked up the belly putter in the past and have always hated it, but when I put it on the analysis, everything came out better. So that encouraged me to get over the, 'I don't like the feel of this,' because I accelerate better, and I do so many things better with it."

Not last week.

It didn't help that the greens at Quail Hollow were not up to PGA Tour standards, but Harrington took 32 putts on Thursday and 35 on Friday, including a total of seven missed putts from 10 feet and in.

Harrington, who has not won anywhere since the 2010 Iskandar Johor Open on the Asian Tour, shot 80-75--155 and missed the cut by nine strokes, tying for last in the field of 156 players through 36 holes.
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